Over the summer the Burnaby Board of Trade (BBOT), convened a member-driven task force, and in consultation with business, government, and not-for-profits, collaborated to better understand the issue of plastic pollution, its impact on oceans and waterways and how business will be impacted by upcoming bans.
With municipalities, provincial and federal governments looking at enacting by-laws and legislation to limit and end use of single use plastic, particularly in the food sector, businesses in Burnaby and across the country will be impacted by the implementation of these bans.
Only 14% of all plastic produced globally is collected for recycling and with taxpayers paying millions annually to collect from public spaces, the impetus for bans locally, nationally and globally has grown significantly. In Metro Vancouver alone 260 million bags, 180 million take-out containers, 260 million cups, 330 million utensils, 96 million straws were disposed of.
In Canada single use item reduction plans and strategies are in place for the cities of Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary, and Montreal. A federal ban on single use plastics will be implemented as early as 2021 allowing for much needed harmonization across the country. The items covered in the proposed bans include: bags, cups, take-out containers, straws and utensils.
While British Columbia is leading the way in recycling, a lack of harmonization across municipalities and provinces, impacts recycling uptake. It also creates market confusion with different bins, and different regulations across the province and the country, making it difficult for residents and businesses to understand what can and can’t be recycled
Metro Vancouver is advocating to the provincial government to propose a provincial single use plastic waste ban across the region in order to ensure consistency in implementation and delivery.
Some of the findings of the task force revealed consumer and market confusion around terminology, such as the differences in meaning between, for example, “biodegradable” and “compostable. This gap in knowledge leads to waste creation.
There is also confusion on what is considered “best practice” in terms of product packaging, for example plastic, paper, reusable containers. Do we understand what is best? Public awareness campaigns on best practices including, reducing, reusing and recycling are still needed and policy implementation based on research are required.
Lastly, there is a significant gap in performance between commercial and residential recycling with residential far outperforming commercial pickup. Increasing the value of recycled materials by increasing the recycled content would create a business incentive for haulers to sell their waste.
In 2020 the Environmental Sustainability Committee will reconvene to move forward on recommendations made by the Task Force that could include:
- Communications –tip of the week in the newsletter
- Advocate to the BC and Canadian Chamber of Commerce to harmonize recycling across Canada.
- Advocate to the BC and Canadian Chamber mandatory requirement of 30% standardized recycling content in packaging across the country.
- Funding for sustainable product development.
- Challenge business to take small implementable steps to be more sustainable.
- With the food industry and related businesses to be impacted by new municipal, provincial and federal by-laws, and regulations, host a round table of food industry representatives to share best practices, challenges and opportunities.
- Burnaby-based pilot convening expertise to help business transition and operationalize a plastic-free business environment.
If you’re interesting in participating, please fill out this short survey.